Social skills in adopted adolescents: A comparative study with non adopted and in residencial care adolescents

Raquel Barroso, Maria Barbosa-Ducharne, Orlanda Cruz, Ana Silva


Adopted adolescents are frequently identified as being at risk in terms of social competence. This study aimed at analysing the social competence of a group of adopted adolescents, by comparing them with a group of adolescents in residential care and another one with no referral to Child Protection Services. One-hundred-thirty-five adolescents aged from 12 to 17 participated in this study, 45 of whom were adopted, 45 were in residential care and 45 were living with their birth families. Adolescents assessed their social competence through the Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scales. Results showed statistically significant differences among the groups. Adopted adolescents displayed more social skills and less behaviour problems than adolescents in residential care and less social skills but more behaviour problems than those living with their birth families. Furthermore, the later the adoptees had been placed in out of home care, the less social skills they presented. These findings highlight the pressing need of child protection policies and practices to ensure adoptees’ healthy social competence.


Adopted adolescent, Adoption, Behaviour problems, Social skills, Residential care.


Barcons, N., Abrines, N., Brun, C., Sartini, C., Fumadó, V., & Marre, D. (2012). Social relationships in children from intercountry adoption. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 955-961. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.01.028

Barroso, R., Barbosa-Ducharne, M., Soares, J., Cruz, O., & Lemos, M. (2012). Escala de Habilidades Sociais e Problemas de Comportamento – Versão de auto-resposta para adolescentes (EHSPC-A). Instrumento não publicado. Faculdade de Psicologia e Ciências da Educação da Universidade do Porto.

Beauchamp, M., & Anderson, V. (2010). SOCIAL: An integrative framework for the development of social skills. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 39-64. doi: 10.1037/a0017768

Berens, A. E., Nelson, C. A. (2015). The science of early adversity: Is there a role for large institutions in the care of vulnerable children?. Lancet, 386(9941), 388-398. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61131-4

Boling, M., Barry, C., Kotchick, B., & Lowry, J. (2011). Relations among early adolescents, parent-adolescent attachment, perceived social competence, and friendship quality. Psychological Reports, 109, 819-841. doi: 10.2466/

Cederblad, M., Höök, B., Irhammar, M., & Mercke, A. M. (1999). Mental health in international adoptees as teenagers and young adults. An epidemiological study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 1239-1248. doi: 10.1017/S0021963099004746

Engels, R., Deković, M., & Meeus, W. (2002). Parenting practices, social skills and peer relationships in adolescence. Social Behavior and Personality, 30, 3-18. doi: 10.2224/sbp.2002.30.1.3

Engels, R., Finkenauer, C., Meeus, W., & Deković, M. (2001). Parental attachment and adolescents’ emotional adjustment: The associations with social skills and relational competence. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 48, 428-439. doi: 10.1037/00220167.48.4.428

Escobar, M., Pereira, X., & Santelices, M. (2014). Behavior problems and attachment in adopted and non-adopted adolescents. Children and Youth Services Review, 42, 59-66. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2014.04.001

Escobar, M., & Santelices, M. (2013). Attachment in adopted adolescents. National adoption in Chile. Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 488-492. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.12.011

Feeney, J., Passmore, N., & Peterson, C. (2007). Adoption, attachment, and relationship concerns: A study of adult adoptees. Personal Relationships, 14, 129-147. doi: 10.111/l.1475-6811.2006.00145.x

Fife-Schaw, C. (2006). Levels of measurement. In G. M. Breakwell, S. Hammond, C. Fife-Schaw, & J. A. Smith (Eds.), Research methods in psychology (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

Furman, W., & Buhrmester, D. (1985). Children’s perceptions of the personal relationships in their social networks. Developmental Psychology, 21, 1016-1024. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.21.6.1016

Gresham, F. M., & Elliot, S. N. (2008). Social skills improvement system intervention guide manual. Minneapolis, MN: Pearson Assessments.

Gresham, F. M., Elliott, S. N., Cook, C. R., Vance, M. J., & Kettler, R. J. (2010). Cross-informant agreement for ratings for social skill and problem behavior ratings: An investigation of the Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scales. Psychological Assessment, 22, 157-166. doi: 10.1037/a0018124

Gresham, F., Elliot, S., Vance, M., & Cook, C. (2011). Comparability of the social skills rating system to the social skills improvement system: Content and psychometric comparisons across elementary and secondary age levels. School Psychology Quarterly, 26, 27-44. doi: 10.1037/a0022662

Hawk, B., & McCall, R. (2011). Specific extreme behaviors of post institutionalized Russian adoptees. Developmental Psychology, 47, 732-738. doi: 10.1037/a0021108

Hodges, J., & Tizard, B. (1989). Social and family relationships of ex-institutional adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 30, 77-97. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.ep11829760

IBM Corp Released. (2015). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 24.0. Armonk, NY: Author.

Instituto de Segurança Social, Instituto Público – ISS, IP. (2016). CASA 2015 – Caracterização Anual da Situação de Acolhimento das Crianças e Jovens. Lisboa: ISS, IP.

Juffer, F., Palacios, J., Le Mare, L., Sonuga-Barke, E., Tieman, W., Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J., . . . Verhulst, F. (2011). II. Development of adopted children with histories of early adversity. Monographs of the Society for Research of Child Development, 76, 31-61. doi: 10.1037/a0022662

Julian, M., & McCall, R. (2016). Social skills in children adopted from socially-emotionally depriving institutions. Adoption Quarterly, 19, 4462. doi: 10.1080/10926755.2015.1088106

Keyes, M., Sharma, A., Elkins, I., Iacono, W., & McGue, M. (2008). The mental health of US adolescents adopted in infancy. Archives Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 162, 419-425. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.162.5.419

Langeveld, J., Gundersen, K., & Svartdal, F. (2012). Social competence as a mediating factor in reduction of behavioral problems. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 56, 381-399. doi: 10.1080/00313831.2011.594614

Marcovitch, S., Goldberg, S., Gold, A., Washington, J., Wasson, C., Krekewich, K., & Handley-Derry, M. (1997). Determinants of behavioural problems in Romanian children adopted in Ontario. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 20, 17-31. doi: 10.1080/016502597385414

McCall, R., Muhamedrahimov, R., Groark, C., Palmov, O., Nikiforova, N., Salaway, J., & Julian, M. (2016). The development of postinstitutionalized versus parent-reared Russian children as a function of age at placement and family type. Development and Psychopathology, 28, 251-264. doi: 10.1017/S0954579415000425

Merz, E., & McCall, R. (2010). Behavior problems in children adopted from psychosocially depriving institutions. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 459-470. doi: 10.1007/s10802-009-9383-4

Palacios, J., Moreno, C., & Román, M. (2013). Social competence in internationally adopted and institutionalized children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 357-365. doi: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.08.003

Sharma, A., McGue, M., & Benson, P. (1996). The emotional and behavioral adjustment of United States adopted adolescents: Part II. Age at adoption. Children and Youth Services Review, 18, 101-114. doi: 10.1016/0190-7409(95)00056-9

Stams, G., Juffer, F., Rispens, J., & Hoksbergen, R. (2000). The development and adjustment of 7-year-old children adopted in infancy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41, 1025-1037. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00690

Tan, T. X., & Camras, L. (2011). Social skills of adopted Chinese girls at home and in school: Parent and teacher ratings. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 1813-1821. doi: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.05.006

van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Juffer, F. (2006). The Emanuel Miller memorial lecture 2006: Adoption as intervention. Meta-analytic evidence for massive catch-up and plasticity in physical, socio-emotional and cognitive development. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 1228-1245. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01675.x



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Nº ERC: 107494 | ISSN (in print): 0870-8231 | ISSN (online): 1646-6020 | Copyright © ISPA - CRL, 2012 | Rua Jardim do Tabaco, 34, 1149-041 Lisboa | NIF: 501313672 | The portal and metadata are licensed under the license Creative Commons CC BY-NC